The body as a site of struggle: oppositional discourses of the disciplined female body

  • Kiran Pienaar Department of English Language and Linguistics, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa
  • Ian Bekker Department of English Language and Linguistics, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa

Abstract

This article presents the results of a study on the discursive construction of one aspect of gender identity, namely the female physical ideal. It reports on an analysis of the discourses of the disciplined female body, as these are drawn upon in two conversations between a group of young, Western female university students. The conversations were elicited in August 2005 using a stimulus exercise designed to encourage discussion on issues relating to female body image, such as the notion of the ideal female body, dieting and plastic surgery. Using the tools of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) (Fairclough, 2001)the article analyses four related discourses, namely the pro-diet discourse, the discourse of the healthy body, the discourse of studied indifference and the discourse of the sexually attractive female body, in terms of how these discourses encode different, sometimes contradictory ideologies of the Western female body ideal. The article concludes that the discourse of the sexually attractive female body emerges as dominant in these conversational extracts and that, by colonising the other discourses, it legitimates its ethic of compulsory heterosexuality, which positions women as erotic objects of the male gaze.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2007, 25(4): 539–555
Published
2007-12-19
Section
Articles

Journal Identifiers


eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614